The movers have come—boxes are packed and on their way. I’m charting my cross-country drive, eager to take in parts of the country I have yet to see. Tonight I said another round of goodbyes, still unable to really utter the words. This time, to my brother and sister (in-law) and my nephew, whom I adore. It was lovely to see them, and watch my adorable nephew once again steal the show in Max Brenner’s fabulous chocolate restaurant.

So, I came up to my mostly empty apartment, and entered poetry tonight. This poem reminded me of one of the many reasons I love Stanley Kunitz’s work. He recently passed away, and I remember one thing students of Kunitz, old and young, always said about him. They said, “Stanley, even in his old age, believed he had things to learn and see, and that he was always changing.” So, in the midst of all of my change, I’m taking guidance from elders, and offer you all one of Kunitz’s poems, “The Layers.”

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.